How Much Does a Social Worker Make? Top Social Service Salaries By State

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated March 30, 2021 | Published February 25, 2020

Updated March 30, 2021

Published February 25, 2020

Being a social worker can be a highly rewarding job if you're passionate about working with other people. It also presents you the chance to enhance your interpersonal skills and establish a bond with children and families by deploying methods to overcome life challenges. A social worker can also render additional resources that serve the emotional needs of their clients when necessary.

In this article, we discuss what a social worker is, the average salary of a social worker on a national level, the highest social worker salaries by state and the necessary skills you need to work in this profession.

Read more: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

What is a social worker?

A social worker attends to a patient's mental, emotional and behavioral health needs. They help clients strategize goals for improvement and review their strengths, situations and support systems to see how they can reach their short- and long-term goals.

Clients may need assistance in adapting to certain circumstances related to past events they've experienced, and a social worker administers programs to help patients prevail and move forward with their lives. Social workers must also possess the ability to respond promptly to crisis management scenarios when they appear, considering the hands-on nature of this position.

Read more: Setting Goals To Improve Your Career

The average social worker salary

A social worker's salary can vary depending on the size of the organization they work for, the amount of experience they have in the industry and the geographical location in which they work.

The average salary in the U.S.: $58,746 per year

Some salaries range from $16,000 to $127,000 per year

Top social worker salaries by state

The highest-paying states for social workers are in the Northeast, Southeast and on the west coast. Some social workers may have a higher salary if they work in a clinical setting or with the government. A social worker also has the option to open their own private practice once they gain expertise and can build a steady client base.

Let's review the top 10 states with the highest salaries for social workers and rank them starting from lowest to highest. The salaries below were populated using state-specific data from Indeed. For the most up-to-date information from Indeed, please check Indeed Salaries.

1. Oregon

The average social workers' salary in Oregon: $68,497 per year

Salaries range from $28,000 to $197,000 per year.

2. California

The average social workers' salary in California: $70,105 per year

Salaries range from $21,000 to $147,000 per year.

3. District of Columbia

The average social workers' salary in Washington D.C.: $71,186 per year

Salaries range from $23,000 to $144,000 per year.

4. South Dakota

The average social workers' salary in South Dakota: $71,315 per year

Salaries range from $15,000 to $170,000 per year.

5. Vermont

The average social workers' salary in Vermont: $73,240 per year

Salaries range from $18,200 to $165,100 per year.

6. Nevada

The average social workers' salary in Nevada: $77,861 per year

Salaries range from $34,000 to $139,000 per year.

7. North Dakota

The average social workers' salary in North Dakota: $84,840 per year

Salaries range from $35,400 to $155,100 per year.

8. Rhode Island

The average social workers' salary in Rhode Island: $85,760 per year

Salaries range from $43,200 to $129,700 per year.

9. Hawaii

The average social workers' salary in Hawaii: $86,800 per year

Salaries range from $44,000 to $138,400 per year.

10. New Jersey

The average social workers' salary in New Jersey: $87,500 per year

Salaries range from $19,700 to $400,000 per year.

Essential skills you need to become a social worker

You need to have a wide range of skills and apply them effectively to become a successful social worker. Take a look at some of the best skills you'll need to possess to thrive throughout your career:

  • Active listening skills

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Leadership skills

  • Time management skills

Active listening skills

Active listening requires you to be fully engaged with your client when you're working on a particular issue. They may be sensitive to your feedback on the subject matter they're trying to articulate, but active listening demonstrates that you're empathetic and want to see the situation from their perspective. You should also assess non-verbal communication to better understand their emotional state as well as ask follow-up questions, so you can comprehend the information they communicate to you. The more information you have increases your chances of being able to help them.

Problem-solving skills

You may need crisis management skills to work with clients. This skill falls under the scope of problem-solving. You should start by clarifying the problem the client is having to move the conversation towards a resolution. This way, you know the exact approach to take and the resources you can provide.

Leadership skills

Being a social worker requires you to take initiative when working with clients. You'll need to be able to mentor clients on how to take the best next steps in key life decisions and general development.

Time management skills

You'll be working with different patients as a full-time social worker, so you need to have the ability to balance working with multiple clients and the situations they're enduring. You'll need to divide up your time to ensure each client is getting the right amount of time and attention. Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based) goals can assist you in creating objectives that serve your best interest, along with your clients.

Read more: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples

Education requirements to become a social worker

You'll need to obtain a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work, Psychology, Sociology or a related field to become a full-time social worker, but from there, you have many different specialties to choose from. For example, you have the choice to work with children and the elderly in settings such as schools, hospitals, hospice care or non-profit organizations assisting people in need. Working in multiple internships and volunteering programs positions you to get the job you're searching for after you graduate. It's also recommended that you earn a Master's in Social Work (MSW) to earn more clinical experience, especially if you're vying to work at a hospital.

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